Carotid Atherosclerosis and Cognitive Function in a General Population Aged 63-65 Years: Data from the Akershus Cardiac Examination (ACE) 1950 Study

J Alzheimers Dis. 2019;70(4):1041-1049. doi: 10.3233/JAD-190327.


Background: Studies on the relationship between carotid atherosclerosis and cognitive function in subjects from the general population are few and results have been inconsistent.

Objective: We aimed to investigate the association between carotid atherosclerotic burden and cognitive function in a cross-sectional analysis of a population-based cohort aged 63-65 years.

Methods: All habitants born in 1950 from Akershus County, Norway were invited to participate. A linear regression model was used to assess the association between carotid atherosclerosis and cognitive function. We used carotid plaque score as a measure of carotid atherosclerotic burden and the Montreal Cognitive Assessment (MoCA) for global cognitive function.

Results: We analyzed 3,413 individuals aged 63-65 with mean MoCA score 25.3±2.9 and 87% visible carotid plaques. We found a negative correlation between carotid plaque score and MoCA score (r = -0.14, p < 0.001), but this association was lost in multivariable analysis. In contrast, diameter or area of the thickest plaque was independently associated with MoCA score. Lower educational level, male sex, current smoking, and diabetes were also associated with lower MoCA score in multivariable analysis.

Conclusion: Carotid atherosclerotic burden was, unlike other measures of advanced carotid atherosclerosis, not independently associated with global cognitive function.

Keywords: Atherosclerosis; Montreal Cognitive Assessment; cardiovascular risk factors; carotid plaque; cognition; cognitive function.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Carotid Artery Diseases / diagnostic imaging*
  • Carotid Artery Diseases / epidemiology*
  • Carotid Artery Diseases / psychology
  • Cognition / physiology*
  • Cohort Studies
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Databases, Factual / trends*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mental Status and Dementia Tests*
  • Middle Aged
  • Norway / epidemiology
  • Population Surveillance* / methods
  • Prospective Studies